The Native Americans Were First
Colorado Hot Springs are everywhere in Clear Creek County. In fact, they’re historical!
Before gold was discovered in the Rocky Mountains and the settlers took their first bath in the hot springs along Soda Creek, the Ute and the Arapaho Native American tribes used these hot springs. The waters were believed to be a spiritual place primarily for the gods and spirits.
Springs Discovery Recorded
The first specific mention of the hot springs in a published form comes from the diary of George A. Jackson, the man who made the first discovery of placer gold in the Rockies. Jackson amplified his account to some of the members of the Pioneer Association of Clear Creek County who wrote a history of the county in 1918.
In this history they reported that Jackson “ passed into the mountains via Mt. Vernon Canyon toward the head of Vasquez Fork (now called Clear Creek), arriving at what is now known as Bergen Park.
They discovered a large herd of elk, which they pursued to the edge of a precipice. At the foot of which they saw Vasquez Fork frozen solid. A longing to follow this stream and further explore the canyon seized him but his companion deserted him, returning to camp and Mr. Jackson started out the next day alone.”
Descending to the level of the stream, he followed its source to Grass Valley. He saw a dense blue mist rising from one of the canyons, and suspected it to be from an encampment of Indians. He climbed from the mountainside in waist-deep snow to the brink overlooking Soda Creek. He peeked cautiously to ascertain the origin of the mysterious smoke and found it to be a thick vapor mounting from the hot springs. This place is now known as Idaho Springs. This was known as the Big Geyser which sank away in 1864 and other small springs bubbled up.
Miners Enjoyed The Springs
It is certain that the miners of the surrounding area along Clear Creek took advantage of the naturally hot waters of the springs to bathe in. Hot water for washing would have been truly exotic to an early mining camp. And while it is pure conjecture, it is likely that Augusta Tabor, H.A.W. Tabor’s first wife, before Leadville and Baby Doe, was the first white woman to use the Hot Springs.
According to Mrs. Tabor’s diary, she was the first white woman to arrive at Jackson’s Diggins which was also called Sacramento briefly in 1859. Augusta opened up a bakery out of the back of the wagon they brought to Sacramento while H.A.W. worked the sandbars of Clear Creek. It seemed likely that the clear hot spring water on Soda Creek would have been irresistible in a primitive mining camp.
Clear Creek County is the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. Located just west of Denver along Interstate 70, Clear Creek has 396 square miles of public lands to explore, as well as four mountain peaks above 14,000 feet. Clear Creek is comprised of charming mountains towns Idaho Springs, Downieville, Lawson, Empire, Georgetown, and Silver Plume, which are all along the I-70 corridor. Learn more about Clear Creek County here.